Newsletter 498

Published July 8, 2023
Holly Lawford-Smith: Feminism vs the trans police

It’s another world-turned-upside down week, with former NSW Premier, St. Gladys, indicted by the ICAC for corruption, after helping her boyfriend, Dazza Maguire, supply his local electorate with a high-priced clay pigeon shooters’ facility and a conservatorium. Something for everyone, really. Although Dazz will be having his day in court, St. Gladys has been absolved of all charges, which might be seen as a mark of Divine favour. Instead, all we hear is condemnation of the ICAC for taking so long to bring in the report, with many Libs saying it’s disgraceful that such a holy being should have been charged at all.

We seem to have forgotten that the Saintly One was deliberately directing public funds towards projects contrary to departmental advice, only because charismatic Dazza asked nicely. It may be great that Wagga Wagga got a conservatorium, but Wagga’s success came at someone else’s cost.

Since her hasty retreat from politics, St. Gladys has been enthoned at Optus in a top executive position, so it has been a pretty soft martyrdom, probably at a higher salary.

Why can’t we be content and accept that corruption is an offence, no matter who does it? Instead, many still feel it’s OK for lovely people like St. Gladys to bend a few rules if she so desires.

Meanwhile, in a story in The Australian, Melbourne academic, Holly Lawford-Smith told of her vilification by trans activists for daring to assert in a feminism course that “gender identity is something different from your sex, and that distinction matters.” In today’s world, this previously uncontroversial idea is a hanging offence. It has led to protests, vandalism and intimidation, while Melbourne University authorities have largely failed to respond to the lecturer’s pleas for support.

It seems we’ve reached the point where feminists are considered dangerous reactionaries who make university campuses “unsafe” for trans people. The trans response is that such people need to be hounded, silenced, bullied and sacked. This is new norm for the university, once viewed as a place where important issues could be debated and discussed.

While movements such as feminism aimed at achieving equality between males and females, what’s alarming about the new activism is that equality is not the goal. The trans lobby want their enemies exterminated, without any opportunity for reasoned debate. This is sheer brutality, and it can only damage the standing of trans people in the eyes of the public, while providing right-wing rabble rousers with plentiful ammunition.

I think it’s fair to say that in Australia, most people have a live-and-let-live approach to others. Re. trans people, the majority would probably say:  “Let ‘em do what they like”. it’s alarming that the trans activists seem to be far more intolerant and aggressive than their supposed critics – especially towards women such as Holly Lawford-Smith, or in England, writers such as Kathleen Stock and Helen Joyce. One might argue that trans rights is a basic social justice issue, but the sheer nastiness of the assaults on dissenting individuals is a form of terrorism. It feeds the crazy, destructive ‘culture wars’ that keep us from focusing on bigger issues such as economic injustice and climate change. The essence of liberal democracy is that one should be able to do whatever ones likes, so long as it doesn’t have a negative impact on others. Embrace the negative, stifle debate and you embrace totalitarian thinking.

In the spirit of quietism, this week’s column looks at a four-decade survey by Francis Giacco at Australian Galleries. Giacco is a realist who finds his subjects close to home. A skilled technician and admirer of the Renaissance traditions, his work is completely contrary to the spirit of the age. I’m beginning to see this as a big recommendation.

The film being reviewed is the inevitable Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, which is just as silly and relentlessly action-packed as all the other Indiana Jones movies. The major difference is that Harrison Ford is now 80 years old, although he doesn’t insist on doing his own stunts, like Tom Cruise. It’s hard to get excited about this movie, but equally hard to be too critical. In some ways it’s a relief to see a movie with a lot of old-fashioned ethnic stereotypes, in which good and evil are so neatly defined. In the real world nobody knows what’s what any more.